Travelogue -- Ken and Carolyn Go To Disneyland -- 2009

On February 26, 2009, Carolyn and I had our 15th Wedding Anniversary. We decided, despite the economy being where it is, and the fact that herself is not 100% certain she'll have a job (although the odds are looking better) in the near future due to bank mergers, that we would go to Disneyland and celebrate. This is because D'land has big meaning for us -- we fell in love there, we got engaged there, and we've had many happy times there.

So, herself made arrangements, we flew out on Friday the 27th, came back home on Sunday March 1. We had a blast.

The following is an attempt to detail some of it, with photos, although not a lot (it's hard to get decent photos from the rides, unless you have a camera a lot faster than mine).

Friday, February 27
We left the Oakland airport in the afternoon of the 27th, with no misadventure getting there, parking, etc., except that the daily parking lot was more full than anticipated (meant more of a walk).

We planned on not checking the luggage, to save a few minutes. However, I had read that the limit on how much "liquid" you could carry had been changed. I guess I had misread the article I found that in. I had to check my luggage (d'oh!) -- this was due to the shaving cream and hair gel bottles having more than 3.5 oz of liquid in them, I guess. Sheesh. Oh well. Not a huge deal, but slightly annoying. My bad.

We flew out on Southwest Airlines. I want to say that I really don't like "cattlecar" seating, but SWA has got this working fairly well. It's mostly pretty organized, although of course the customers who take ALL their luggage on the plane can make you crazy, especially when the airline says "carry on one bag ..." etc. They don't usually enforce it all that closely. But that's people ... sheesh.

Arrived, got a shuttle with only a bit of waiting. The shuttle was part of our package deal, so it meant we didn't have to pay more to take the shuttle. We got dropped off at the Grand Californian Hotel, which, I must say, is pretty darn Grand. This is where we had our reservations. I had meant to get some photos of the lobby (huge, impressive, beautiful ...), but forgot. Oh well.

Check in was easy, and we got a $50 gift certificate to use anywhere in the parks or in "Downtown Disney". Kewl. As soon as we got to our room (nicely appointed, not big, but nothing to complain about, since we didn't spend a huge amount of time in it anyway), herself called the Napa Rose hotel to get reservations for dinner. (Photo to the right was from our balcony into DCA.)

We did a bit of wandering around, but didn't go far. Got dressed for dinner, and went to the Napa Rose (5:45? something like that). WOW. The Napa Rose is listed as a 4 1/2 star restaurant in the "Unofficial Guide ..." (out of five stars -- nothing else gets 4 1/2 -- the closest is 4 stars). We've eaten at a lot of nice restaurantes (in The City, elsewhere) over the last few years, and I have to say that this was one of, if not the, best places we've ever eaten. Fantastic. The service was great, the food was amazing, everything was as close to perfect as I could imagine. I did observe that with a restaurant of that quality people were still coming in in jeans, shorts, tshirts, flip-flops. Sigh. Americans ... what maroons ... oh well. (We dressed up a little -- not to the 9s, but still -- no jeans, etc. ...)

After dinner we went back to the room so herself could change shoes, and we wandered off to Disney's California Adventure (DCA) park (briefly) and then off into Downtown Disney. We went shopping for gifts for a few folk (we promised a friend a tiara ... she's in for a pleasant surprise, we hope). We had fun, looked at stuff, listened to some of the musicians, just a nice evening. Went back to the hotel around 10 pm (DCA was closed (at 9pm), so we had a bit of an adventure finding the entrance to the hotel from Downtown Disney), but we got there and crashed, since we wanted to do the "Early Entry" into the main park the next morning.

Saturday, February 28
6 a.m. is early. But, with the early entry into the park at 7, we figured we'd better get in gear. We were down at the gate by 6:45 if not earlier. Whew.

The usual silliness at the gate, one of the cast members trying to get us all to cheer, and all that. He wasn't a great cheerleader, but eventually folk got into it. Got into the park, and started meandering a bit. Only two parts of the park were open for early entry (Fantasyland and Tomorrowland). Before we went into either, we stopped at the statue of Disney and Mickey and I started to take a shot of the spouse when a nice young couple volunteered to take the photo with both of us. I felt stupid to not ask if we could reciprocate -- I thought of it later (d'oh!).

We decided to go to the Matterhorn first. That was fun. We then went off and did the "Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters" ride. Silly, but fun. From there we went to Star Tours (Carolyn gets a bit motion sick on that one ... so we figured before breakfast would be a good idea ...). After a bit of indecision, we decided to hunt down some breakfast. We figured that three rides in 1/2 hour or less was a good start to the day.

So, we wandered down Main Street, because I had hit a smell of heaven (cinnamon buns ...) on the way in. But, it wasn't really a sit-down breakfast place -- just the pastry shop. SO, we wandered back to the Plaza Inn. We signed in, got in line, only to realize as they lined us up to take pictures that this was the "Character Breakfast". Whoops! (Lots of kids underfoot ...) Well, it actually was fine, albeit more expensive for breakfast than I think either of us intended. The trick was the photo ... they got us with that as well. I decided to splurge and pay for it (see below).

After bumping into several characters, and getting a kiss from Minnie Mouse (who noticed I was wearing a mouse-ear pin -- the Star Wars Rebel Alliance logo with ears ... rather clever, really), while the CJ was getting her breakfast. One of the chipmunks came by later and we got photos with him.

It was cute. I doubt we'll intentionally do that again (of course, we didn't intentionally do it this time, either ...).

We wandered off at our own pace to Adventure Land, bought a hat (it was 80+ degrees and beautiful out, but that meant sun ... so I kinda needed a hat. No biggie.

We did the Jungle Cruise because I've always liked it. It's goofy and all that, but what the heck? We found the most dangerous critters on the Jungle Cruise aren't part of the spiel by the cast members who run the boats -- I think it's duck mating season ... a male duck came swooping in and nearly attacked a female that was right by the boat, and some of us got splashed ... yeow! We noticed Indiana Jones was closed and never did get back to check it out ... it happens. Wandered off and did Pirates of the Carribean (a favorite of ours). Purists were (apparently) all up in arms about changes made (they added a bit of stuff from the movies) -- they did a nice job blending that in, and it was fun to find the changes. Really, people get upset about the oddest things. We decided to try to get a reservation for The Blue Bayeau for dinner, but they were already full up (and it was maybe 10am by this point, if not earlier ... I think it was earlier). Gad. We've never done Disneyland without having dinner at The Blue Bayeau. Bummer. But, we decided we weren't letting anything ruin our day, and moved on.

We did the Haunted Mansion after that. Wandered off to find the "Throne Ride" (toilets), because, well, it's necessary, ended up in Critter Country. Didn't ride Splash Mountain -- I didn't want to get wet. Carolyn started making noise about wanting to do Small World. Yipe! Well, it is one of her happy places -- she loves Mary Blair's work. So we stopped at Thunder Mountain first, and then meandered over to Small World. The wait wasn't bad yet, so that was fine. Again, the purists were up in arms because Disney had added characters from various recent animated movies into the ride. If you weren't looking for them (we were, because we were curious) they fit in well enough that it wasn't real noticeable.

If you are familiar with the park, you are well aware of how much travel we've done by this point. Good thing I had put gel inserts into my shoes a couple days before! Gad.

So. We wandered off after Small World, and started trying to decide what to do. We decided to do the Finding Nemo Submarine ride. I mean, the wait was 45 minutes, but CJ felt that we'd sort of cheated and not really had to wait very long for any rides up to that point. Er? She likes the line management and such. Um, okay. Anyway, that was fun. When we got close, one of the cast members noticed my tshirt ("Having a Swell Time in The Future, Wish You Were Here") and we got to chatting. She found out it was our Anniversary. HORRORS! She took off and we really half-expected she was going to bring back a bunch of cast members and they were going to sing to us, or something. It turned out to be much more innocuous, and actually kind of cool. She gave us each a Micky/Minnie "Happy Anniversary" button to wear (see photo/scan really). Then she (and the four ladies in line behind us) asked how long, and since we were still waiting for the ride, told the story (with 8 by 10 glossy pictures with circles and arrows ... um, well, okay, no photos) of how we got engaged at D'land, and so on. We got some "Aws" and such, and it was nice. We almost got on the ride, when the young lady (cast member) who got us the first buttons, gave us another set of buttons because it was so romantic that we got engaged at Disney, and we were celebrating 15 years later ... (Cinderella in the coach going off into the distance) "... Happily Ever After!". Awwwww. It turns out that the cast members are trained to LOOK for these buttons, because everywhere we went after we were congratulated ... that was sweet and rather cool, really. (The ride was fun, a nice mix of real architecture and projected bits with characters from the movies onto screens that fit in with everything rather smoothly ...)

Somewhere in there we decided to shoot for lunch, the question was, "where?". Hmm. MAYBE the Bayeau has openings for lunch. Duh. Nope. So we went to the Cafe Orleans (across the alley), which has these incredible pomme frites -- garlic, some other herbs -- really amazing. Combine that with a Mint Julip (no booze, but tasty) and a chicken sandwich, that took care of lunch ... yum. We wandered down Main Street, hitting shops, bought a funny mug "Mike Woczowski!" which last I looked today CJ was using for tea ... large mug, but it was hysterical, and we had to get it ... (and we got some more gifts).

I think we wandered off to DCA after that. Figured we should spend some time in the other park. We dropped some purchases off (photos, etc.) at the hotel room, since the entrance was nearby. We ended up not actually doing much in the way of rides. Then figured we should just wander around and see what we wanted to visit. We were surprised at how much they are revising this park, but then stopped and thought about it. I had read that DCA has not been making lots of money, and may have been losing money. We talked about it a bit, and realized it was most likely because they had lost the "Disney Vision", as it were. Disney's original parks were about family. DCA was more about 20-somethings, and older folk, and not really so much about the kids or families. There are some concessions to the children, but it's not the family-friendly place that the main park is. Well, after making dinner reservations at Wine Country Trattoria (more later), we stopped at the "Blue Sky Cellar" to see the ideas that they have for the future (a video, some drawings, some models) of DCA. Interesting. Guess we'll have to go back and see how it all comes out in the long run. (Darn, what a shame ...)

We hit "It's a Bug's Life" -- a show that is actually a bit scary, but fun. 3-D and animatronic. From there we wandered around the Paradise Pier area. Hit some shops, meandered a lot. Just kind of took it all in. Herself was looking at the drained "lake" area which you couldn't help but see ... part of the "Re-imagineering" that they're doing. Wandered some more and off to the Hollywood Pictures Backlot (cheerleaders everywhere ... argh! -- they had some competition at DCA). Went to the Muppet 3-D movie, which I LOVE. It's a riot. As always. They changed the introductory film used for the waiting room, which was fun. They're still playing across the screens (sets of three TV screens -- characters move from one to the next ...). Love it. After that we went to the Animation area. We ended up going in and doing the "Animation Academy", where a real Disney animator shows you how to draw one of the many popular Disney characters (in this case, it was Jack Skellington ...). Of course, herself's drawing was MUCH better than mine, but she's the artiste.

We meandered some more, and ended up at the restaurant a bit early, so got some wine ... chatted, waited ... when it was close to the time we were told to show up, we went over and got our pager. And waited, and waited, and waited ... turns out a bunch of the cheerleaders (young teens) and families were taking FOREVER at the restaurant. But we eventually got seated outside, which was fine. Had an okay meal, not great, but certainly edible. Just nothing to write home about (ah, Blue Bayeau ... le sigh).

Wandered off to Downtown Disney again. The night before Carolyn had seen a pair of earrings (amber) that she really liked, but just couldn't make the decision to buy them (she does that sometimes). So I said "Fine, I'll buy them as an anniversary present." Of course, if I had a chance to slip away I'd have purchased them without her knowing and surprised her, but we didn't split up except for "The Throne Ride" ... We went and got 'em ... she loves 'em. She's happy. We did more wandering. Went back to the main Disney park (using the Monorail from Downtown Disney). Wandered a bit. Didn't do a lot. Herself wanted to do Small World one more time, but I just waited for her. I figured once in a day was enough for me. <g> She took a water bottle and got some "Elixer of Racial Harmony" (the water in the ride). However, it turns out we couldn't bring it home (d'oh!). Details later.

From there we were getting tired, but wanted to stick around for awhile. There were no fireworks (even Disney is cutting back ...). Sigh. But we did Pirates again. Then hit the nearby toilets. As I was coming out, a woman was brought in on a gurney to the first aid station back in that building. Er? Never did find out what happened, but Fantasmic started shortly after that (which meant the accident may have caused the show to be delayed, it was scheduled for 10:30, the show started closer to 10:45). We got on the train (chatting with a nice young couple of folk in the station and then on the train) to Tomorrowland, took the Monorail back to Downtown Disney, and went back to the hotel, to crash.

We didn't close the park, but we made an effort. <g>

Back at the hotel, it didn't take long to crash and burn.

Sunday, March 1
Unfortunately our flight was early enough in the day, that we really couldn't go back into the Park. So we got up at 6, ordered room service, which arrived as I was finishing up shower/the usual-stuff. Had a much larger-than-expected breakfast, which was really good. Then packed, and got ourselves ready for the trek home. Went down, checked out, and ... well, nothing eventful happened. Turns out that you can't bring a water bottle in your carry-on luggage, which CJ forgot, so the "Elixer of Racial Harmony" got tossed at the airport. Sigh. Otherwise, nice and smooth. We got home around 2:30, pet the cats, unpacked. I collapsed in the chair watching movies and dozing off while herself started laundry and such. Had an early evening (or I did -- I was out cold when she came to bed, so I don't know how late she was up).

All in all, a very pleasant weekend, and a great way to celebrate our 15th Anniversary!


(These are thumbnails, click on them to see a larger version ...)

View from our room

View from our room

View from our room

Carolyn dressed up
for dinner

Ken outside the park

Carolyn outside the park

Ken and Carolyn
inside the park

Snow White and Dwarves


The Official Photo

Rafiki (The Lion King)

Chipmunk and Carolyn

Ken and Chipmunk

The Mark Twain

A "Hidden" Mickey!

Sham Moose

Sham Stag

A Small World (Clock)

The Matterhorn

"Mine! Mine! ..."

Anniversary Button

"... Happily Ever After" Button

Deer Crossing Sign (DCA)

Inside "It's a Bug's Life">
Waiting Area

"The Orange"

Beautiful Tree

Closeup of Flower

Disney and Steampunk
... who knew?

Sleeping Beauty's Castle
at night

Small World clock
at night